This reader story is from Kelsie, who blogs at pinkandrick.com, a blog about money, goals and dogs. It's as random as it sounds, she says.
Some reader stories contain general advice; others are examples of how a GRS reader achieved financial success or failure. These stories feature folks with all levels of financial maturity and income.
I had a full ride to college. It wasn't a fancy Ivy League school, but it was a good state university. I didn't have to pay tuition, and about half of my room and board was taken care of, but I still took out student loans. Instead of working, I paid for food, living expenses and who knows what else with student loans.
Five years later, I was $18,000 in debt. I graduated in 2008, and opportunities were slim. My first job out of college paid $22,000, and the six months grace period after graduation went by fast. Then, I started getting the bills. First, they went to my parents' house. I thought, “They aren't coming to me, so I don't have to pay them, right?” Then, they started coming to my house, and I didn't open them. See no bills, pay no bills?
Then, they started calling. I could tell they really wanted their money back, so I would pay them when I had the cash. Which was about every other month. I thought of it as an optional repayment plan. A year later, I married a man who didn't understand my optional repayment plan. He didn't have any student loans. He didn't have any debt.
After about a year of being married, we decided to get rid of my student loans for good. We paid them off in seven months. We lived on nothing. It was miserable, but it was the best thing that could have happened to us because…
I was forced to learn about personal finance. I earned two degrees, and I didn't even know how to decipher my student loan bills. So, I started reading blogs, books and listening to podcasts. Paying off my student loans forced me to be engaged in personal finance.
We have a stronger marriage. Paying off my student loans forced us to have the same goal. Having the same goal forced us to talk about our future. Talking about our future forced us to dream together. Dreaming together made us a stronger couple.
We learned to live on one salary. We paid off our student loans by living on one salary, and we're still living on one salary to finish our new financial goal: paying off our house.
I realized what I really want. When new grads score their first big job, they think they deserve nice things. The truth is they do. They deserve a nice car. They deserve nice clothes. They deserve nice trips. But they deserve one thing even more: They deserve to keep their hard-earned money. By paying off my student loan debts, I realized that I don't want to use my money for paying interest on stuff.
It gave us a direction. Without having student loans to pay off, we would have bought cars, a boat and a big house. We would have started a life that we really couldn't afford. But since we had the debt, it forced us to make a decision about the life we wanted to have.
I'm not just trying to find a silver lining to paying off student loans — I KNOW we're better off. If I wouldn't have taken out student loans and worked so hard to pay them back, I would have wasted years spending money on stuff I didn't need and couldn't afford. Then, I would have probably taken another decade to pay it off. Student loans forced us to make a decision about the kind of life we wanted, which snapped us out of the rat race of wanting stuff. That's why I'm glad I took them out, but I hope to never do it again.